Sunday, December 17, 2006

'Jamie's Italy' by Jamie Oliver

ISBN: 1401301959
Format: Hardcover, 320pp
Publisher: Hyperion
Price: $34.95

When you open Jamie’s Italy you are greeted by a picture of Jamie Oliver standing in front of an open door way with a messenger bag slung over his shoulder, a book in his hand, and a look of happiness on his face. A picture is worth 1,000 words and this picture is the perfect introduction to a fantastic cookbook.

But not just any old cookbook. Jamie’s Italy is full of his personal stories from his travels as he collected these delicious recipes. 'In writing this book, I didn’t just want to give you a collection of Italian recipes,' Oliver says. 'I wanted to share some great experiences with you at the same time. So I wrote it while I traveled around the county, working and eating and meeting people off the beaten track.'

So we go with Jamie as he travels all over Italy. With brilliant photographs by David Loftus and Chris Terry, the food along Jamie’s travels is brought to life and the candid photos of Jamie talking with locals are truly wonderful. You get glimpses of things you might never have the chance to see, of lives that you might never lead.

One of the things I enjoyed, besides the great recipes, was the honesty in which Jamie spoke of Italy. In his section titled ‘Street Food & Pizza’ he says that about 50 percent of street food that he came across was not the best stuff. As the author relates:

'One old chap in an alleyway in the Palermo was surrounded by about ten people all eating and talking. He had a big cauldron in his stall, with a double-lined tablecloth tied on top like a steamed pudding at Xmas. There was nothing similar about the contents, though… this chain smoking, dirty-looking bloke would put his hand into the cauldron though a small hole in the cover and draw out a handful of greasy gizzards, spleen, and lung which he would slap onto a break roll, or just serve on a bit of paper.'

Well that’s one thing I won’t try when I go to Italy. But the pizza is another story. Jamie’s recipes for pizza are mouth-watering. Although I don’t have a brick oven like he recommends I did try his pizza with potatoes, mozzarella, rosemary, thyme, and tomatoes and his best garlic bread. Jamie also includes a recipe for a fried pizza which I haven’t tried yet but will soon.

But my favorite recipes was the one for Caponata, which he describes as an ’incredible Sicilian eggplant stew’ When I saw the picture for it I knew I just had to try it. It was simple and tasted wonderful. I’m not sure if it was anything like how it is done in Sicily but it wasn’t bad for Oklahoma.

Jamie’s Italy is full of recipes that you will want to try and that you will grow to love. Jamie stresses the use of local as well as seasonal produce as the keys to an authentic dish. He also includes some great basic recipes for making pasta and cooked vegetables. Jamie’s Italy is a wonderful place to be, I hope one day to travel off the beaten path and eat all those wonderful things from the source.

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